An American Editor

December 10, 2014

The Proofreader’s Corner: Giving Your Business Promotion the Personal Touch

Giving Your Business Promotion the Personal Touch

by Louise Harnby

The holidays are round the corner. We freelancers, and our clients, are working flat out to finalize current projects (or to find a comfortable pause point) before we take a short break for the end-of-year festivities. In the Harnby household we celebrate Christmas, so my mind’s on the tree we’re getting this weekend and the couple of hours we’ll spend decorating it with some of the beautiful baubles I’ve collected over the years. I’ll turn 48 next March but looking at that tree will give me the same warm, fuzzy feeling it did 4 decades ago!

I love this time of year — the lights, the gift wrapping, the tree, the decorations, the frost on the holly bush in our garden. Here’s the thing, though — it’s also a really good time to do some targeted and personal business promotion to past and present clients.

I could have sent an email to my customers, wishing them well and telling them I’m looking forward to working with them in 2015, even if I haven’t heard from them in a while. I could have gone a little further and sent them a holiday card from that rather nice selection box I picked up a few weeks ago.

Both of those are fine — that’s what most people do. Each of my customers can add his or her card to the pile of other cards from other freelancers. If I’m lucky, he or she will hang it up on their pin board. But that’s about as much impact as it will make. It will be appreciated for what it is — one not-so-interesting example among many. Still, my clients are nice people and they’ll appreciate the thought.

Getting the Client Talking

What if I can do better than just “fine”? What if I want more than a quick nod of appreciation? What if I could garner more than an appreciative smile? What if I got them talking? What if I could make the following happen?

Kim:  “Hey, Joe, look at what’s just arrived from Louise Harnby!”
Joe:  “Who’s Louise Harnby?!”
Kim:  “One of the proofreaders I use.”
Joe:  “She any good?”
Kim:  “Yeah, she’s top notch. But look at this fabulous custom card she just sent me. Isn’t it brilliant?”
Joe:  [Looks at my card] “Ha! That’s great. I want one of those! It’s got her website info on it, too. I’ll take a look — I need a good proofreader for that crime novel I’ve got coming up in two months. Mind if I give her a call to check her schedule?”
Jane:  “What’s all the noise about, guys? Oh, Kim, that card is funny! Who gave you that?”
Kim:  “It’s from one of my proofreaders, Louise Harnby. She’s great. You should try her out.”

In the above scenario, my holiday card has turned into a talking point. It’s no longer one client smiling appreciatively at a card; instead, three people are talking about my business. And that’s the point, as Rich Adin reminds us: “You must not forget the primary reason for sending a gift, which is to promote you. Consequently, whatever you send should be something that can be (is likely to be) shared among office colleagues or shown around” (“The Business of Editing: Thinking Holidays,” 2014). I’d recommend reading Adin’s article in full, not least because it offers useful advice on timing.

Certainly, many of us have clients who work alone, so sending a customized card won’t always generate a conversation. But at the very least it will get you noticed by those whose radars you’ve slipped off, perhaps because you haven’t worked for them recently. If like me, however, you work for larger corporations such as publishers, and have one managing editor working within a larger team, this scenario could very well lead to your client discussing you and your work with colleagues.

Customize It!

This year I decided to make my own holiday cards. I say “make my own” — I drew the pictures and wrote the words, but I let a professional take care of the printing. The thing is, you don’t have to be a gifted artist — I’m not. All you have to do is stand out, thereby giving the client a reason keep the card, place it in a prominent position, and talk about it. If it’s in front of them, and it’s branded with your logo and your web address, it becomes more than a holiday card — it’s also a huge business card. It keeps you (or puts you back) on your client’s radar; what’s more, you might well end up on your client’s colleagues’ radars too.

This year, my seasonal greetings come in the form of large postcards (see below), with my business name and website address on the front, and a picture of a snowy scene that I drew in Microsoft Publisher, using nothing more than the Shapes tool. I differentiated my cards by incorporating the UK proof-correction symbols in the design — the snowflakes are made from while delete symbols; the tree is decorated with insert carats, transposition instructions, space markers, and so on; and “Christmas” is spelled incorrectly (I used the relevant symbols to mark the error). Then I added my business name and website address. The reverse was left blank so that I could write a personal message to each recipient.

Harnby Christmas card 2014

I uploaded a PDF of the final design to a UK high-street printer’s website (Vistaprint). Printing costs worked out at less than a pound per card (including envelopes). The stock is 350g, so it’s sturdy, and the cards have a gloss finish that looks great but still allows me to write on the reverse using a standard pen.

I’m thrilled with the results. Each of my clients will get a custom card that I hope will make them smile — and make them talk. I’m wishing them a Happy Christams [sic], but I’m marketing my business too.

Appreciating Others’ Beliefs

I chose to send Christmas cards this year. What if my clients have different beliefs? Will I offend them? The clients I’m sending these cards to are those whom I’ve worked with for years. They send me Christmas cards, too, so I’m not going to be offending them by reciprocating.

As our relationships with particular clients grow, we learn more about them and their preferences. As time passes, we can be more personal. But as a business trying to accomplish multiple tasks with a single stroke of the pen, we do need to tread cautiously and use common sense.

I’ve worked in publishing, particularly academic publishing, for over two decades. I’ve found this industry to be one that is particularly open, tolerant, and celebratory of difference. I suspect that most recipients of cards with messages that don’t match their own belief systems will accept them with good grace, rather than taking offence. Still, if you are worried that you might offend even one of the clients you are gifting, make your season messages neutral. “Seasonal greetings,” “Happy holidays,” and “Peace and good health” are sentiments shared the world over.

Other Ideas?

You don’t have to do it my way, of course. Your budget will determine what’s feasible; your creativity will do the rest. If your clients celebrate different holidays because of different belief systems, your choice of how to communicate will be influenced by this.

Other ideas could include mugs, fridge magnets, pens, Post-It notes, baubles, other small decorations, perhaps even food, all with a holiday theme and branded with your logo and website address.

The holidays are a time for giving. Telling our clients that we wish them well, value their custom, have enjoyed working with them in the past, and look forward to doing so in the future, is common sense. To differentiate ourselves while we’re doing it is good business practice.

Happy holidays to all of you who’ve read my column on Rich’s blog in 2014. I wish you all peace and good health for the rest of the year and beyond. See you in the New Year!

Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and the curator of The Proofreader’s Parlour. Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or find her on LinkedIn. She is the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers and Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.

December 3, 2014

On Today’s Bookshelf (XIX)

In only a few weeks, it will be gift-giving time again. High on my list of gifts to give and to receive are, of course, books. What I like about books is that they are educational (I always learn something) and long-lasting. When I give a book, I know that for as long as the recipient keeps the book, every time she looks at it, she will think of me.

If you are looking for ideas for books to give, the On Today’s Bookshelf series here at An American Editor can be a place to start. Besides buying books at Barnes & Noble, I also buy a lot of “remainders”, which are new books that are leftovers and overruns the publisher didn’t sell through normal retail channels and are now being sold as remainders, which translates to very steep discounts. My primary source for remainder books is Daedalus Books. The other source for books, particularly older books, are bookstores that sell used books. I generally only buy used books that are graded near fine, fine, or new; occasionally, I will buy one graded very good. As I have mentioned before, when it comes to print books, I only buy hardcovers.

As to what is on my bookshelf — and some gift ideas — here is a list of some of the hardcovers and ebooks that I am reading or acquired and added to my to-be-read pile since the last On Today’s Bookshelf post:

Nonfiction –

  • Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I by Alexander Watson
  • Klansville, U.S.A.: The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights-Era Ku Klux Klan by David Cunningham
  • The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America by Marc Levinson
  • The Paper Trail: an Unexpected History of the World’s Greatest Invention by Alexander Monro
  • The First Modern Jew: Spinoza and the History of an Image by Daniel Schwartz
  • A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza’s Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age by Steven Nadler
  • Churchill’s Empire: The World That Made Him and the World He Made by Richard Toye
  • Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election that Brought on the Civil War by Douglas R. Egerton
  • Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War by Stephen R. Platt
  • Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962 by Yang Jisheng
  • Isaac’s Army: A Story of Courage and Survival in Nazi-Occupied Poland by Matthew Brzezinski
  • The Wars of Watergate by Stanley Kutler
  • Shelley: The Pursuit by Richard Holmes
  • The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale
  • Russian Roulette by Giles Milton
  • Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower
  • The Kaiser’s Holocaust: Germany’s Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism by David Olusoga and Casper W. Erichsen
  • Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer by Bettina Stangneth
  • Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore
  • The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In by Hugh Kennedy
  • Young Romantics: The Shelleys, Byron, and Other Tangled Lives by Daisy Hay
  • The Courtiers: Splendor and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at Kensington Palace by Lucy Worsley
  • Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II by Kieth Lowe
  • Edith Cavell by Diana Souhami
  • Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson by S.C. Gwynne

Fiction –

  • The Thousand Names and The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler (2 books)
  • Magician, Magician Kings, and The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman (trilogy)
  • Personal by Lee Child
  • The Tyrant’s Law and The Widow’s House by Daniel Abraham (2 books)
  • Bye Bye Baby and Beautiful Death by Fiona McIntosh (2 books)
  • The Necromancer’s Grimoire by Annmarie Banks
  • To Kingdom Come and Some Danger Involved by Will Thomas (2 books)
  • The Path of the Sword by Remi Michaud
  • The Immortal Prince by Jennifer Fallon
  • Eye of the Red Tsar and The Beast in the Red Forest by Sam Eastland (2 books)
  • Traitor by Murray McDonald
  • A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison

Of course, if you are looking for books to give colleagues or would like someone to give you to help you with your freelancing business, you can’t do better than these books, which focus on the business aspects of the freelancing rather than on editorial skills:

Are you planning to ask for or give books this holiday season? If yes, why not share with us what books you are giving or asking for. If no, tell us why not.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

November 28, 2012

The Holiday Gift: To eBook or to Hardcover?

Filed under: Books & eBooks,Miscellaneous Opinion — americaneditor @ 4:00 am
Tags: , , , ,

Increasingly, the reader in the family is reading ebooks and many of us are thinking that an ideal gift for the ebook reader is either an ebook gift certificate or some desired ebooks themselves. In my case, I was thinking about asking for ebooks (as opposed to asking for hardcover books), but then I got to wondering: If I give an ebook as a holiday gift, what message am I sending to the gift recipient?

My off-the-cuff answer is “I love you” or “It’s great that you are my friend” or some similar positive message. But after mulling the matter over for a while, I wonder how positive the message really is. Yes, I know that many readers prefer to read ebooks and that increasingly readers only want to read ebooks. Yet the question arises because this is a message-bearing gift, even if the message is left unsaid.

When I give a reader a hardcover book, I give the reader something they can see constantly. As it sits on the bookshelf, it acts as a reminder that I cared enough to give them a gift. Depending on the book, it may also have a visual presence that is much more than a reminder that the book was a gift (think of a book about paintings, for example). Plus, if given to, for example, a grandchild, I can inscribe the hardcover with something pithy, like “Happy 9th birthday. Love, Grandpa.” The hardcover is a constant reminder that I care. A few years from now, when the grandchild loses all sentimentality and wants to raise some cash to buy the latest video game, the grandchild can sell the hardcover on the used book market and get a few more dollars toward the purchase price — the hardcover gives again.

The hardcover also is returnable and exchangeable. I bought the book that promotes being a carpenter but mommy and daddy want the child to have a book that encourages a career in quantum physics. I think dragons and fairies are great for 8-year-olds; mommy and daddy think a grounding in reality is better.

The ebook, on the other hand, doesn’t really have a presence. It becomes one of hundreds on the reading device; it doesn’t stand out and remind anyone that this was a gift given with love. And let’s face it, the ability to inscribe something pithy in an ebook just doesn’t have that “magic” ring to it. Of course, since I am buying the ebook for someone else, I also have to hope — with all fingers crossed — that the ebook is properly formatted and isn’t riddled with errors. Giving a poorly formatted, error-riddled ebook as a gift is like giving a TV without a remote control — it will work but the recipient will be a bit grumpy about how well it works.

Plus when I give an ebook, what am I really giving? A license that can be revoked on a capricious whim by the seller (consider the recent Fictionwise debacle); a book that can be here today and gone tomorrow because a cloud failed; a book that cannot be exchanged or returned should it turn out to be the wrong book or inappropriate because about midway through it has a steamy erotic scene even though the book has been rated great for 8-year-olds (or, in today’s vitriolic political environment, the book discusses evolution and the parents are creationists).

I suppose the answer is to give an ebook gift card but how impersonal can one get? That is OK for a business associate, but is that what I really want to give my child or grandchild? What thought (and effort) goes into giving a gift card? I think of gift cards as the gifts of last — last resort and last minute — the gift that says I ran out of ideas; I can’t think of anything for you (what message does that send!); I ran out of time to do shopping; I got lazy; and so on. Besides, how memorable (or exciting) is it to receive a gift card? I can’t ever remember dragging a friend to my bedroom to show him the gift I got from Granny when it was a gift card.

I guess I could avoid my dilemma by simply not considering buying books at all as holiday gifts, but as an editor, I’d like to support my industry in hopes that it will continue to provide me a livelihood for years to come, and, more importantly, books are the gateway to knowledge and there is nothing better than spreading knowledge. Additionally, when that remote control race car finally has seen its last days and joins the scrap heap of once-loved toys, the book I give should still be available.

If my child or grandchild is like me, he or she will treasure books they receive and think of holding them for future generations. Few of us do that with the busted light saber we received for last year’s holiday. That’s another positive to hardcover books — they can be passed on to subsequent generations and evoke the same positive emotion in that generation as was evoked when the gift was originally given. They are the gift that can keep on giving.

Yes, the same is true of ebooks. The text file can be given again and again, perhaps for hundreds or thousands of generations to come and each giving will be in pristine form — assuming that 100 years from now there will be devices available that are capable of reading the file. We assume that today’s text file will be forever readable, but that may not be so. Today’s popular or dominant formats may simply be echoes of the past in the future. A hardcover book, however, we know is likely to be readable 500 years from now because we are reading books from 500 years ago.

(Remember this video of a monk being introduced to the wonders of the new-fangled gizmo called the book?

Even if this is how it has to be done 500 years from now, it at least can be done, which is something that cannot be said with certainty about an ebook file.)

In balancing the pluses and minuses of to ebook or to hardcover, I come to the conclusion that for gifts I will give, I will give hardcover books, not ebooks. eBooks send the wrong message and not enough of the message I want to send. Even for gifts to me, I will designate hardcover desired. I want to be reminded regularly from whom I received “this” book and for what occasion. I do not want the gifted book to simply become another file among my many thousands of already-owned ebook files — a file that once read will most likely never be seen again. I want to know that someone cares and be reminded that they care.

What are your gifting plans?

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